For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them.– Romans 10:13-14
How do we talk to those people who need God the most, and yet already know all about the Bible, or even Christianity in general?
What can you say to a person who apparently has already ‘heard it all’ before?
How can a Christian convey God’s message in a way that will truly penetrate the walls of doubt and disbelief surrounding their heart and mind?
When I was looking for Christians to connect with, to help convert back to God, I had a very hard time relating to anyone. I had distanced myself from God for a long time. I became so discouraged with myself that eventually I began to doubt even God’s very existence. The worst part was, when I tried reaching out to so-called ‘followers of Jesus,’ I felt like I was talking to a wall. They didn’t listen to me, they didn’t seem to care at all what I was feeling or what I had been through. Almost every ‘Christian’ I spoke with about my falling away would immediately take a posture of superiority and begin to preach down to me. Not talk down to me, PREACH down to me. They would say things like, “You just need to accept Jesus into your heart, that’s it.” I felt like they really couldn’t have cared less about me. They were only interested in spouting off what they believed – not what I wanted to believe.
At one time in my life, I was deeply devoted to missionary work. So much in fact, that I became deeply isolated, as well. I was too zealous (yes, there is such a thing); and eventually, I started resenting the people around me. I would teach them about God, read them Bible passages, I would even do acts of service for them, but rarely would a person respond.
As time passed I came to a point in my life when I began to question my beliefs. I figured since I wasn’t seeing the results in my life that I expected then perhaps what I believed was wrong. Although I can’t speak for everyone that questions their beliefs, what led me to stop believing were all of the questions that I couldn’t answer – at least that’s what I told myself. My real reason was because I was disappointed. I was disappointed with what I had achieved in life, and therefore I automatically blamed God. I assumed since the Bible speaks of God blessing those who do His will (Proverbs 16:20), I was entitled to more blessings than what I was receiving at the time. My ignorance, my pride, and my frustration got the better of me, and so I eventually fell away. I started to study what Atheists believe, specifically how they argue against the absence of a Creator. As I delved more and more into atheistic beliefs I started to develop an atheistic mindset.
What is an atheistic mindset?
While this is not meant to be an all-encompassing term for absolutely all Atheists, there are some common traits among many Atheists that I have seen in those read about, and personally met. Almost all Atheists exude a kind of cynicism – especially towards those who profess a belief in God. Not only do they not even consider the possibility of a Creator, but they even go as far as to question the motives of those who actively preach about God, equating them to con-men or scam artists. As for their view of the common, everyday Christian, they mainly see them as ignorant and simple minded. An interesting documentary to watch is entitled Religulous, narrated and created by comedian, and self-professed Atheist, Bill Maher. This film is a good example of the mentality of many people who share Maher’s view on religion in general.
Another common characteristic of many Atheists is one of arrogance. Their understanding of how things really work is generally exaggerated. In many conversations that I’ve had over the years with Atheists, whenever someone challenges their preconceived notion of how they think it is, they will more often than not simply laugh it off as absurdity. Furthermore, whenever I would challenge an essentially ‘unprovable’ belief by them, i.e. some astronomical scientific theory, they will quickly revert back to attacking Christianity, avoiding the subject altogether.
Unfortunately, I did these same things for a number of years. I would gear conversations towards things that I knew couldn’t be explained easily. I would debate with Christians about topics that were difficult to talk about. And, I had totally convinced myself that I was right and they were wrong. As I distanced myself from God, I began to associate myself with other like-minded Atheists. Ironically, I became the very person that I had fought against for so many years. I was now the former Christian, turned pseudo-intellect. My social media posts were filled with anti-Christian quotes and pictures. I would actively search for posts online so I could debate with people about their beliefs. I had a bone to pick with God and wanted everyone to know it.
I remember one specific debate I had with a man who used to be an alcoholic but had turned his life around through Christ. He told me about how he was able to find comfort through prayer. After briefly recounting to me his life story, and concluding with a positive message about the power of God, I replied with something I still regret to this day. I asked him, “if there are starving children in Africa, and people praying for the end of war or suffering in their countries, why would God ignore their prayers and answer your relatively insignificant one?“
At the time, I saw the world as limited. I thought to myself, “that’s unrealistic considering there are bigger problems to deal with like war and famine!” And, when I looked for answers from other ‘experts on God,’ I only got more frustrated and more sure that God didn’t exist.
So, what is Missio Opus?
As I mentioned before, I was a rather zealous, in-your-face, matter-of-fact type of Christian. I was of the mindset that if they didn’t want to hear what I had to say, then that’s their own condemnation. I was full of pride and arrogance – I had the truth, and they needed it! While I would openly teach others about the love of Christ, I myself showed very little love for those I taught. I looked down on them as inferior in a way. They were lost, ignorant, and condemned, and I was their hope for salvation. While I preached about salvation through Jesus, I acted as if salvation came through my words alone. And, while I talked about how I was my brother’s keeper, I was far from it.
Unfortunately, this was the case with most of the Christians that I encountered after I too became an atheist. They had the same attitude I had about those who didn’t share their beliefs.
This blog is not just for those Christians who who want to share the Gospel, this is for any Christian who wants to learn the most effective way of reaching out to their fellow brothers and sisters.
Often, I would speak with Christians who simply didn’t know how to express their beliefs; or, perhaps they just didn’t know how to relate to others in a way that it touched the person’s heart. I’ve met many people who have a strong desire to share their belief with others, but they just don’t know how. Or perhaps they have had negative experiences in the past with missionary work and they are hesitant to do or share anything at all again.
In short, Missio Opus is an effective guide to learning the best way to teach God’s word, and bring people Christ.